False blasphemy allegations: Gujranwala still recovering from mob attack

Published: July 1, 2011

After 10 years as pastor, Eric Isaac faces death threats from those he preached peace to.

GUJRANWALA: 

Two months on, Aziz Colony is still trying to recover from the scars left behind by a raging mob attack.

In April, a Christian seminary, houses of Christians and a church was attacked by a mob protesting the release of two Christians who had been accused of blasphemy from protective custody. Even though the allegations were false, the mob left its mark on Christian properties, destroying everything from furniture to bird cages.

Today, the windows of a Christian-run school, where over 80 per cent of the students are Muslim, are still broken. Posters offering a Rs500,000 reward for information on the “enemies of religion and the state” involved in the riot dot the area’s walls.

Residents are highly reluctant to talk about the incident. While several said they were not in the city at the time, others redirected questions to Chaudhry Farooq, the area pastor Eric Isaac Chaudhry’s brother.

“Look at the neighbourhood,” said Farooq, who has served as deputy Nazim in the past. “Everyone is living together peacefully.”

But Eric Isaac, who has been a pastor at the Presbyterian Church for the past decade, offered a grim assessment. “There is a threat against my life. Despite this, I went to the area last Sunday to conduct worship at the church. The government did say it would provide me with security but that has yet to happen.”

According to Pastor Isaac, the attackers were a mix of locals and outsiders. “The same family [that was accused of blasphemy] has been targeted before but that incident was not publicised. A letter was written and they were alleged to be behind it. The investigative agencies cleared them of the allegations at that time.”

The rioters’ motive is unclear to Pastor Isaac. “I think people were jealous of my work and the church activities and did not want the expansion of the church [which is currently under construction].”

Farooq struck a defensive tone, choosing not to blame the Muslim community at large for the incident and praised the relationship between majority and minority faiths.

In the past, the communities lived together peacefully he said, pointing to his own election as Naib Nazim as proof of the tolerance and acceptance in society.

“There was not a single event organised by the church that was not attended by Muslims,” Pastor Isaac recalled. “All school and college activities involved the Muslim clergy, leaders and people.”

He said he spent Rs20,000 on flyers and banners condemning Pastor Terry Jones’ act of burning the Quran. “I think my programmes helped create a peaceful atmosphere. But suddenly this incident happened and it left Gujranwala’s residents disturbed.”

“This was done by the enemies of the country who want to destablise it,” says Farooq. “Some people tried to use this for their own gains. These people have no understanding of religion or faith.”

Gujranwala is home to thousands of Christians, many of whom left after the attack. Pastor Isaac said that while some have returned, he hopes the rest will follow soon.

“Christians have been living here for decades,” said Farooq. “Our events – births, marriages, funerals – are incomplete without each other. With these incidents … it is like fighting with God.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Mirza
    Jul 1, 2011 - 10:29AM

    “Christians have been living here for decades,” said Farooq. “Our events – births, marriages, funerals – are incomplete without each other. With these incidents … it is like fighting with God.”

    God bless you Farooq Sahib. To read your remarks I feel there is still hope in all the gloom. Thanks again and may God reward you for your being true Muslim and not a hate monger.
    Regards,
    Mirza, USARecommend

  • dd
    Jul 1, 2011 - 10:37AM

    Minorities should leave pakistan until blasphemy laws are repealed, nothing is left in a state heading towards self destruction.
    Its sad but true, Time bomb is ticking…
    -IndianRecommend

  • T Khan
    Jul 1, 2011 - 11:08AM

    @Mirza:

    The appreciation for Mr Farooq’s remark is nice, the only thing though is that he is not a Muslim, but being the pastor’s brother is probably a Christian by faith.

    The point to realize here is that any man or woman, regardless of their religion and faith ought to have these ideas to be regarded as a decent human being.

    Why is it then that we today are finding these kind of remarks, thinking that they are coming from a Muslim;s mouth so extra ordinary???

    Call Him Allah, Jehovah or God…since the start of time till the end of time His message to human kind has been peace and peace only.Recommend

  • Jul 1, 2011 - 12:44PM

    All “the people of the book”, who believe in God Almighty must livein peace,respecting each others’ identical rights to live a life according to their faith and practice their religion iside their home and places of worship and all must live and let live each other with the freedom of conscience, the only criterion which differentiates the human-being from the animal beastly world. Let all the book-people live and treat each other in a way that pleasth th Creator of the world and mankind, The God Almighty.Unless we do it, we will live an un-complete life. Let us make it a complete life, a way of life, successful lofe.Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Jul 1, 2011 - 3:04PM

    Blasphemy laws are un-Islamic and against common sense. It is an absurdity thought by the fickle minds of ignorant maulanas. They failed to emulate the examples and ways of the Holy Prophet (saw) and to cover their failures have thought of these laws.Recommend

  • colmywaykurtz
    Jul 1, 2011 - 7:18PM

    The travails of Aziz Colony are very sad, and the bravery of these people is extraordinary. And the reaction of many Pakistani Muslims to this is inspirational.

    I was born and live in America, European by ethnicity, Christian by faith. And I must say that judging by the comments I typically have seen for stories such as this on tribune.com.pk, the majority of Pakistani Muslims are good-hearted, tolerant people who want to see all faiths and creeds live in peaceful co-existence. Very different from comments I have seen on other sites from Muslims of other ethnicities/countries.

    I salute and give prayers and wishes for the well-being of all these good people. Recommend

  • Joe Al-Kafir
    Jul 1, 2011 - 10:02PM

    Yes, everyone just go on pretending that Mohammed (beautiful pattern of conduct – Qur’an 33:21) didn’t attack the Pagans and Jews of 7th century Arabia.

    If you keep denying this fact it makes it so much easier to say ‘these guys are not acting like the prophet’…..

    If you accept the fact, you see just why the religious minorities of Pakistan face such prejudice, often from the government itself.Recommend

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